Add my big congratulations to New Jersey teens Sammi Siegel, Elena Tsemeris, and Emma Axelrod for having the chutzpah to question their elders at the Commission on Presidential Debates and educate the American public while they were at it. The young women asked why had it been 20 years since the last women moderated a presidential debate and they started a petition. Earlier in the week, due to their efforts, CNN’s chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley was named the first woman since Carole Simpson in 1992 to moderate a presidential debate. On October 16, at Hofstra University in New York, Crowley will facilitate the town hall format discussion between President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Additionally, ABC’s Martha Raddatz was chosen to moderate the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on October 11. PBS’s Gwen Ifill moderated the VP debates in 2004 and 2008.
Crowley, who hosts CNN’s State of the Union, has over two decades experience covering electoral politics, will no doubt do a fine job moderating and facilitating a conversation between the candidates and the assembled crowd. She’s a seasoned moderator of Senate campaign debates and if she is taking notes from her colleague Soledad O’Brien, she’ll ask incisive follow-up questions if there is any confusion in what Obama or Romney is putting forward to the audience.
And I do hope in her follow-up that Crowley brings the conversation around to specifically ask how a policy position will effect women. We’ve had an unprecedented year of politicians attempting to roll back the gains women have fought for over the past decades, it’s only right that we have a voice to ask the candidates what they plan to do for over half the voting population. And women do vote more often than men! The economy, job creation, and energy policy as well as health care and education need to be considered though the experiences and needs of women.
It is disappointing that Crowley will be in charge of the only debate where the moderator is unable to directly ask questions to the candidates. The town hall format allows undecided voters to formulate the questions asked to Obama and Romney and the Gallup Organization chooses the voters. Crowley will be able to ask follow- up questions. The other debates will be moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS and CBS’ Bob Schieffer. Both men have moderated debates in the past, with Lehrer performing the task on 11 prior occasions.
In the meantime, let’s start planning for 2016. We cannot allow 20 years between women journalists moderating debates. A reason why it’s been over a generation since a woman has moderated may be because there are only 3 women out of 17 on the Board of Directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates. A change in the composition of its board is in order. With the inclusion of more women in the commission’s leadership, perhaps there will be a broader pool of women journalists to choose from? And in that spirit, here’s my short list of women moderators for 2016.
In a fair and just world, ABC and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour should be moderating one of the debates slotted to Lehrer or Schiffer this year. I’d love to hear her ask President Obama and Mr. Romney their thoughts on our relationship with Russia and Syria and what, if anything, they intend to do about the increasing humanitarian crisis in Syria. Follow up question about Russia’s involvement in Syria.
I was really hoping that Gwen Ifill would be called on this year. She’s shown her expertise and finesse time and again. Washington Week is amazing because of her.
MSNBC’s newcomer Melissa Harris-Perry would also be stellar. If she can keep a classroom full of undergraduates in line, moderating presidential candidates should be a cake-walk. Her nuanced questioning might trick the candidates into giving a thoughtful answer rather than generally canned responses.
Soledad O’Brien keeps making headlines for simply doing her job as journalist by keeping her interviewees honest. I certainly would not miss a debate she was moderating.
Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! I’m confident that any presidential candidate would come out on the other side the debate a better leader for enduring her tough line of questioning.
And finally, is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to see Rachel Maddow moderate? If Jim Lehrer could moderate all the debates in 1996, I see absolutely no reason why Maddow shouldn’t be allowed to do the same in 2016.
I know there are so many other excellent choices for women moderators. Who else should be on this list?
Photo credit CNN.